Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Focus During Meditation

By Sangeetha Saran

Meditation has long been regarded as the ultimate tool for mindfulness and relaxation. According to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the practice can help people struggling with anxiety to deal with distracting thoughts in a positive and effective way. Because people with the mental health disorder can't tell the difference between nagging worries and problem-solving thoughts, engaging in mindful behaviors such as meditation help.
Here are some tips that help with focus during meditation:
  • Don't force it. When you're new to meditation, it can be very hard to sit still and focus for any length of time. That's why it's important to give yourself an attainable goal. For example, start out with two minutes of meditation daily for a week. Then gradually add time to your meditation practice by five-minute increments. Before you know it, you'll be meditating like a pro because you've allowed space in your schedule and your heart for mindfulness.

  • Make it the very first thing you do when you get out of bed. By making it part of your daily routine, you're sending a signal to your brain telling it that your practice matters. You're then able to focus on meditating without rambling thoughts filling your brain. You know that just as soon as you're done spending time on your meditation cushion, you'll be ready to start your day's To Do List. No matter what else happens throughout the day, you'll have taken some much-needed time for yourself.

  • See your thoughts as fleeting and your feelings as temporary. Treat what you're thinking and how your feeling as it comes up. Understand that you don't have to respond to them in the moment. Instead, accept that you've had these thoughts or feelings. Explore why they've come up during your meditation practice. Write down a few solutions to every issue that you're facing. This forces you to be proactive instead of reactive. You'll then be able to focus on meditating knowing that you have the option to problem solve after you're done with your meditation session.
You may not be able to control your thoughts when you first start meditating. After learning a few tricks, however, you'll feel your worries slip away. Being able to quiet the mind is a skill that anyone, no matter what their age, can learn.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

How Can You Get the Most from a Meditation Session?

By Sangeetha Saran

Meditation is a special practice that can provide many positive benefits. While meditating, certain attitudes and actions can have negative effects on meditation, suppressing some benefits of the process. In order to have a positive, pleasant experience, it is important to ensure a proper mindset, both going into and during each meditation session. Following these few simple tips can help each meditation experience be more positive and powerful.

Prepare the Mind

Be sure to meditate in a calm, safe place that is free of distractions. Before beginning to meditate, take a few moments to clear the mind and relax the body. By taking deep breaths and completely relaxing the muscles in the body, the mind will be able to let go of any tension, allowing a more tranquil atmosphere. This can also be achieved by placing the mind in a joyful state by thinking positive and compassionate thoughts.

No Need to Hurry

Many things in life, such as appointments and work tasks, are on a set schedule and must be completed in a timely manner to meet specific deadlines. However, with meditation, it is quite the opposite. A full meditative experience cannot be rushed and cannot be accomplished in just a few minutes. It is important to let each meditation progress at its own speed, unhurried by any outside pressures. Allowing the mind ample time to enter a wholly peaceful state fosters an overall improved experience.

Distractions Happen

While meditating, especially in early stages of practice, it is common for the mind to wander and be distracted by external thoughts. It is important to know that this is a normal occurrence and that eliminating these distractions takes patience and time. While practicing meditation, it is essential not to allow self-criticism to occur, as these thoughts are inhibitive to effective meditation. Thinking positively and aiming to consistently improve focus will nurture an encouraging and relaxing environment.

Experience the Full Benefits of Meditation

Meditation can be a beneficial and soothing experience for the mind and body as a whole. Each experience can provide useful personal insights that can be adapted and utilized in daily life going forward. Though perfecting the practice of meditation requires considerable repetition and patience, there are many steps that can be taken daily to improve each individual session, leading to a more fulfilling meditative experience.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Yoga With Guided Imagery

empower intention
By Michael Gleason

Time off from work or getting away so we can hear ourselves think can be a challenge.  Sometimes the furthest we can get away physically is in our homes and mentally employ yoga with guided imagery, often referred to as Yoga Nidra.  Yoga for relaxation/Yoga Nidra translates to roughly “induce sleep”.  Imagine being able to fall asleep either a little faster or have a more restful, longer sleep without waking up or insomnia-related feelings.

Yoga with guided meditation means closing your eyes to the material world and feeling the tongue from the inside of the month.  You will want to give yourself an intention for this yoga course on the way to sleep.  As you consider your own intention ask yourself about how your life would look if your desires or ambitions finally manifest.  After saying this intention to yourself three times let it go.  This will allow this yoga with guided imagery to have a more solid foundation. 

Many students have later said that yoga with guided imagery has made them feel buoyant, as though they were floating on clam waters.  As you “float” through different transitions (day/night, dusk/dawn, and the four seasons of the calendar year).  Continue to breathe deeply from 10 to zero.  Be sure your heart is “aware” of your counting back so you can float and empower that intention to have a positive impact both on your life as well as your family, friends, and co-workers.  

That scenario is for when you are going to bed, able to squeeze in a weekend nap, or are travelling and need a distraction from either plane turbulence or the horns honking while taking a bus.  

If you are at work or school and can steal away (in the good sense of the word) 15 to 20 minutes or if you are able to use your meal break there are some general Yoga Nidra principles you can employ without falling asleep.  This will enable you (also in the good sense of the word) to take on the day’s monotony or any emotional challenges with greater ease. 

Yoga with guided imagery is routinely done in the corpse pose, lying on your back with your palms up.   You typically see yoga students experiencing the guided imagery at the second half of the class or for the remaining 15 minutes of class when the mind-body-connection should have either been established or furthered after previous practices.  Hopefully your instructor will know that a lot of sleep in the Western world can too often be a glorified cat nap with many issues from the previous day still unresolved.  Many yoga students with headaches or PTSD have admitted that yoga with guided imagery has helped alleviate the symptoms.  

Moreover, yoga with guided imagery is a way to reclaim being a human being vs. a human doing. The steps for yoga with guided imagery are below.  There normally isn’t a modification for any of this.  If your yogi isn’t using guided meditation and imagery be sure to see if they are willing to add it.  It is a great enhancement to your practice

-  For a change, actually start in corpse pose;

-  Place your initial awareness on your right foot then up to the right knee, thigh, and hip;

- Repeat this process on the left leg;

-  Start to “maneuver” your awareness through your body and relax each limb and appendage as you go;

- Continue to take slow, deep breaths in and out; 

-  When ready roll over onto your right side and remain in the fetal position for a few minutes; 

-  Deliberately work your way back to the seated pose, really appreciate the deep breaths in and out; 

-  After Yoga Nidra/yoga with guided imagery other medical concerns may not feel as symptomatic such as depression and anxiety


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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Yoga with Goats

gets a laugh
By Michael M. Gleason

Many yoga poses are named after animals – pigeon, down-dog, and cobra – but only recently have live animals been incorporated into the practice itself. Enter yoga with goats.  What started in Oregon and Arizona is moving across the United States.  First, this is the chance to become more connected with your animal spirit.  While interviewing Sally Susinno, RYT-200 of Wellesley, Mass., she pointed out that, in addition to this being an adorable idea, it is a chance to connect with any and all spirit animals.  Susinno did caution that while practicing yoga with a cat or dog climbing on you that goats have hooves and may not be as comfortable and goats are not indoor animals for a reason. 

In general, yoga with animals is ok.  The fun and comical elements of yoga with goats means having their cuteness likenesses climbing on you during practice.  The No Regrets Farm in Oregon had tried yoga with goats on a lark.   This leads to either getting deeper into the practice and blocking out the merriment of the goats and kids.  Or, because of life’s stresses, getting into your pose and being able to laugh at yourself while the goat tries to nuzzle or cuddle up.  It also means watching your balance as to avoid stepping into something uncomfortable.  If you are doing the yoga outside or in a barn you will want to wear socks or pack a change or socks and shoes.

Wellness and Goats  

The Oregon farm, No Regrets, is owned by Lainey Morse.   To combat the stresses of everyday life she added her pet goats to her practice and started advertising.  As a result, she now has a waiting list.  Urbanites are coming out to her farm to utilize the wellness advantages of yoga but also the aesthetic of the goats.  Having their cute likenesses and watching them frolic gets a laugh from people who might otherwise may not have been under a lot of stress or just in a bad mood.  

Though there currently is not a goat pose in yoga there is already a goat element.   A favorite yoga pose is Virabhadrasana or warrior pose.  The name of the posture is routed in Hindu mythology.  A powerful priest made a sacrifice but did not invite his daughter who was married to the god Shiva.  This lead to a serious argument resulting in Shiva creating a Virabhadra (hero + friend) and ordered the destruction of the priest’s guests.  After a long ordeal, the priest is reborn but with a goat’s head.  It could be argued that yoga with goats was going to be inevitable.  

Something else to consider when practicing yoga with goats: these are innocent animals.  In this modern age of virtual reality and needing technology more and more to stay connected yoga with goats means seeing something in nature that is innately playful.  In addition, the comical antics of the goats running under people’s legs during partner yoga and bridge pose, the lack of stress from these animals means they are nimbler.  Think of the people in your current and past yoga classes who are there to rush through the poses and get into corpse pose and then leaving.  Seeing a flexible animal parade around means stopping and looking at your postures and your level of fun.



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